The gist of the story is quite simple: a dog bites a man; the man is badly injured; he undergoes an operation and receives $250,000 in insurance money; a judge sentences the dog to death; and a town goes up in arms in defense of the dog (Congo is his name).
Oh, and before I forget: The mauled man in question is an undocumented Honduran immigrant, whose unfortunate encounter with Congo happened as he arrived at the dog's owners in Princeton, N.J., home to begin his chores as a landscaper.
None of this would seem really extraordinary. Accidents happen all the time; dogs bite people in certain situations. People in Princeton -- and many other places around the country -- hire undocumented workers to do their gardening. What's troubling here, though, is how the incident rapidly escalated from an unfortunate accident involving a worker and his employer's pet, to a good old-fashioned case of pure and blatant racism, which the media have failed to call by its rightful name.
As soon as word was out that the worker, Giovanni Rivera, was undocumented, people began flooding the newspaper websites and blogs asking for Congo's release and Rivera's deportation. You just have to browse through some of the dozen or so blogs created to defend Congo (and I yet have to find one in favor of the landscaper) to realize how far hatred can go: "Too bad Congo doesn't work for the border patrol," says one comment posted on one of the Free Congo Web sites. "The dog deserves an award. One less Mexican is a boost to society," reads another one (ignore for one second the fact that Hondurans are not Mexican) and so on. Congo, whose case is under appeal, even has his own Free Congo Blog ... for Dog's sake! (And Fox News is now in on the action.)
Unfortunately, the barrage of anti-immigrant slurs and the growing hatred towards undocumented workers has gone fairly unnoticed by the media, which have instead focused on such important details as Congo's favorite food (raw beef patties and chicken chewies) and how much he loves playing with squeaky toys. Aside from a couple of Spanish-language local papers and radio stations in the New York City area, newspapers have remained pretty much focused on the dog's plight.
As this blog was being posted, New Jersey's governor Jon S. Corzine hadn't yet made a decision as to whether pardon Congo or not. No word yet on the fate of Mr. Rivera.
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Read more from Laura daily at Mi Blog Es Tu Blog.